Feeds

MayDay! MayDay! Ruskies reinvent cyber crime

Not your father's botnet

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Researchers have unearthed two previously undetected botnets that exhibit sophisticated new capabilities that could significantly advance the dark art of cyber crime.

One of them, dubbed MayDay by security firm Damballa, uses new ways to send and receive instructions to infected machines. One communication method uses standard HTTP that is sent through an organization's web proxy. That allows the malware to circumvent a common security measure employed by many large companies.

Indeed, Tripp Cox, vice president of engineering and operations at Damballa, says he's observed MayDay running inside some of the world's most elite organizations, including Fortune 50 companies, educational institutions and ISPs. (He declines to identify them by name.)

"Most malware doesn't go through the trouble of trying to discover a computer's web proxy settings and use that as a method for getting onto the internet," he says.

The botnet also uses two separate peer-to-peer technologies so zombies can stay in touch with each other, presumably as a back-up measure in case the central channel is disconnected. One protocol communicates using the internet control message protocol (ICMP) and the other uses the transmission control protocol. The ICMP traffic is obfuscated so it's indecipherable to the human eye. Damballa researchers are still working to figure out exactly what kind of information is being transported over the channel.

Up until now, the zombie army popularly known as Storm has been the 800-pound gorilla of the botnet underground. Having recently marked it's one-year birthday, it is believed to comprise about 85,000 infected machines. It was responsible for about 20 percent of the world's spam over the past six months, according to MessageLabs, which provides email and web filtering services to more than 16,000 business customers.

By comparison, MayDay and another newly discovered botnet called Mega-D have far fewer nodes, but they are worth watching for a couple reasons. For one, they are likely to get bigger over time. And for another, their increasing sophistication is a good indicator of the direction professional bot herders are headed.

MayDay has also done a good job of flying under the radar. Infected machines have a limited amount of time to connect to the command and control channel. If the time stamp is more than a few hours old, the server returns an error message, making it hard for white-hat researchers and rival bot masters to perform reconnaissance. And according Cox, the vast majority of the anti-virus products fail to detect at least some of the samples obtained by Damballa researchers. (Symantec and Sophos, in postings here and here, question Damballa on this issue.)

There's another reason why MayDay has managed to remain under cover until now: it is still relatively small. At any given time, there are only "several thousand victims" infected, according to Cox.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Next page: Tenacious D

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.